A Month of Japan – Battle Royale

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Live Action Film Rec – Battle Royale


What it’s all about: In the near future, the economy has collapsed, unemployment has soared and juvenile crime has exploded. Fearful of their nation’s youth, the Japanese government passes The BR Law: Each year, a 9th grade class is sent to a remote island where they will be locked into exploding neck collars, given a random weapon, and forced to hunt and kill each other until there is only one survivor left.

Why you should watch it: A lot of people have compared this movie (and book—there’s a book as well) to The Hunger Games because of the similarity in the basic premise: the government forcing teens to kill each other in a sort of game until there’s only one survivor. Something I think Battle Royale does better: it doesn’t pull its punches. Sympathetic characters end up killing other characters not by accident or in immediate self-defense but because they have to make hard choices to survive or they (understandably) melt down during tense situations that arise. Other characters who haven’t trained to be killers nonetheless find they’re willing to embrace that role. There are many shocking moments and many heart-wrenching moments, and it’s a film that will stick with you long after you’ve watched it.

*Note: Graphic violence, not suitable for particularly young or sensitive viewers.

If you’re familiar with both this movie and The Hunger Games, which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:


A Month of Japan – Princess Tutu

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

TV Rec – Princess Tutu

princesstutuWhat it’s all about: In a fairy tale come to life, the clumsy, sweet, and gentle Ahiru (Japanese for “duck”) seems like an unlikely protagonist. In reality, Ahiru is just as magical as the talking cats and crocodiles that inhabit her town—for Ahiru really is a duck! Transformed by the mysterious Drosselmeyer into a human girl, Ahiru soon learns the reason for her existence. Using her magical egg-shaped pendant, Ahiru can transform into Princess Tutu—a beautiful and talented ballet dancer whose dances relieve people of the turmoil in their hearts. With her newfound ability, Ahiru accepts the challenge of collecting the lost shards of her prince’s heart, for long ago he had shattered it in order to seal an evil raven away for all eternity.

Princess Tutu is a tale of heroes and their struggle against fate. Their beliefs, their feelings, and ultimately their actions will determine whether this fairy tale can reach its “happily ever after.” (from MyAnimeList)

Why you should watch it: Princess Tutu has so many of my favorite story elements. It takes popular tropes from fairy tales and magical girl cliches, and twists them in unexpected ways. It features vibrant characters who reveal more and more layers, and grow and change, across the entire series. It shows morality as something full of shades of gray rather than black and white. And it has a wonderful meta-fictional approach: stories within stories and a puppet-master orchestrating events from afar, who may not be as untouchable as he thinks. Not to mention the unique integration of ballet and classical music into the story. This isn’t just one of my favorite anime TV shows—it’s one of my favorite TV shows period!

What’s your favorite twisted fairy tale? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:


A Month of Japan – Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

A Month of Japan blog seriesBecause A Mortal Song is set in Japan, in the month leading up to the book’s release I wanted to celebrate some of the amazing media out there by Japanese creators. Monday to Friday for the next four weeks, I’ll be highlighting my favorite books, TV shows, and films (as well as some snack box services—you need something to munch on while you’re doing all that watching and reading!). You can find a full list of my faves and other resources here on my website.

Let’s kick things off!

Book Rec – Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi


What it’s all about: Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river—and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy—the Prince Chagum—on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince’s own father.

Why you should read it: Balsa is a great protagonist, a tough and skilled fighter but also compassionate. I loved the interplay between her and the prince (who grows a lot over the course of the story and really comes into his own), her mentor, and her friend/almost-romantic interest. The story’s mystery is unraveled at a good pace, with twists I didn’t see coming, and I appreciated that one of the key figures in finding the answer isn’t a fighter but a scholar. The action sequences are exciting and the questions of history and morality thought-provoking. Plus, if you can get your hands on a print version, it has an absolutely lovely interior design including two-page illustrations for each section! An all-around excellent fantasy novel. 🙂

Who are your favorite fantasy heroines? Let me know in the comments.

Join me tomorrow for my next rec! You can read more about A Mortal Song in the meantime:


New Book Announcement + Pre-order Offer!

I’ve been sitting on this news for ages, and now I can finally reveal that I have a new book coming out this September! It’s my pleasure to introduce you to A Mortal Song (click to see the cover larger):

A Mortal Song coverSora’s life was full of magic–until she discovered it was all a lie.

Heir to Mt. Fuji’s spirit kingdom, Sora yearns to finally take on the sacred kami duties. But just as she confronts her parents to make a plea, a ghostly army invades the mountain. Barely escaping with her life, Sora follows her mother’s last instructions to a heart-wrenching discovery: she is a human changeling, raised as a decoy while her parents’ true daughter remained safe but unaware in modern-day Tokyo. Her powers were only borrowed, never her own. Now, with the world’s natural cycles falling into chaos and the ghosts plotting an even more deadly assault, it falls on her to train the unprepared kami princess.

As Sora struggles with her emerging human weaknesses and the draw of an unanticipated ally with secrets of his own, she vows to keep fighting for her loved ones and the world they once protected. But for one mortal girl to make a difference in this desperate war between the spirits, she may have to give up the only home she’s ever known.

Song will be released September 13th in Kindle ebook*, paperback, and hardcover format. You can pre-order from some retailers now with others coming soon!

Amazon button Barnes and Noble button Indiebound button Chapters Indigo button Book Depository Button

Or order a signed copy directly from me: Paperback ~ Hardcover

If you do pre-order, I have a special offer for you! Everyone who pre-orders the book—in any format, from any retailer—and submits their receipt will get a digital gift pack featuring:

-An exclusive digital booklet following Sora’s journey through Japan with photos from the author’s travels and lots of story commentary.

-An exclusive 25-page short story showing a key sequence in the book from another major character’s POV.

-An exclusive high-res digital poster of the book cover, signed by the author.

-Access to Megan’s secret bonus content webpage, where you’ll find deleted scenes from Song as well as her other books.

-A chance to win even bigger prizes, including swag and signed books.

Click here for more details or to claim your gift pack!

*Other ebook types available on request. Email me to ask.

Giveaway: YA Fantasy Novels of 2016!

I know things have been a little quiet around here lately (these days I’m more active on Twitter and Facebook if you want to follow me there too), so as a thank you to all the awesome readers out there, I’m giving away five of the most anticipated YA fantasy novels of the year!

Just click the image or here to enter, and you could win Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Star-touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Riders by Veronica Rossi, and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. That’s a lot of great reading!

Good luck! 🙂

Creating a Killer Virus

I just noticed that this guest post of mine is no longer available on the original site, so I’m re-posting it here for any new Fallen World readers who missed it. 🙂

The idea of a mysterious sickness that no one knows how to cure is one of the scariest things I can imagine. When I started planning the book that would become The Way We Fall, I realized early on that I didn’t want to just gloss over the science with vague explanations. I wanted to understand the virus I was creating, so I could find believable ways to make it even scarier.

I read several books on viruses and disease, and talked with a microbiologist to make sure my ideas weren’t totally crazy. Much of my research didn’t go into the book–it just there in the background as I wrote. So I’m going to share with you here the factors I considered, and the reasons my virus acts the way it does.


Viruses can pass from person to person in all sorts of ways. Pretty quickly, I decided mine was going to spread by respiratory means. That is, through the air: an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing the virus into the air, where it can then be breathed in by another person, giving the virus a new home.

Why respiratory? Well, for my virus to be truly scary, it needed to spread quickly and easily, and airborne viruses are by far the most contagious. After all, you can catch them without even being that close to someone who’s infected. And all it takes is one cough and the virus can reach every other person in the same room. The only reason some of the world’s deadliest viruses, like Ebola, haven’t caused widespread outbreaks is that they can only be transmitted through direct physical contact with someone who’s already sick. Scientists who’ve seen hints that the virus may become airborne find the possibility terrifying.


When you catch a virus, you don’t get sick immediately. There’s always an incubation period during which the virus starts to replicate itself in your body, before there’s enough of it to cause any symptoms. Some only take a day or two to emerge; some a week or more.

When creating my virus, I was inspired by measles. Measles spreads through the air, but it doesn’t give you the standard respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing) right away. It hides out in the body’s own cells, reproducing itself and gradually invading other systems, only provoking symptoms some ten days later. I gave my virus a similarly long incubation period, for a few reasons. Like measles, it doesn’t primarily infect the respiratory system–instead, its focus is the brain and nervous system, so I figured it would need some time to settle in there. Also, the longer it takes for people to realize they’re infected and start taking precautions, the easier it is for the virus to spread. And finally, for someone exposed to the virus, having to wait ten days to find out if they’re going to get sick is a lot scarier than only waiting two.


During my brainstorming, I sat down and made a list of all the possible symptoms a disease could cause, focusing on what seemed the most frightening, both to the person infected and to those witnessing it. More than anything, people seem to fear diseases that affect the mind. Consider the fact that it’s been years since the Mad Cow outbreak, and people still make nervous jokes about it. Who talks about SARS or H1N1 anymore? Look at the current fascination with zombie stories, in which the “disease” continues to control the behavior of the infected even after death. As uncomfortable as we are having our bodies turn against us, the thought of losing control over our minds is far more terrifying.

But zombie stories have always bothered me a little, because I find it hard to believe that the disease could take over nearly an entire civilization, when anyone infected is acting in ways that should make anyone not infected stay far far away from them. For a virus to have the best chance of passing through a population, I thought, it’d need to be doing something to attract new “victims” to it. Like the toxoplasmosis parasite which makes rats it infects less afraid of cats, so they’ll be more likely to get eaten and pass the parasite on to the preferred feline host.

So while the first symptoms that emerge when a character is infected with my virus seem like a typical respiratory infection–coughing, sneezing, fever–there’s also an itch. An itch caused by the virus tinkering with the nervous system. And before too long, the virus starts affecting the parts of the brain involved in inhibition and social desires. Those infected lose all sense of discretion at the same time as developing an intense longing for human company. If there’s no one around, they seek other people out, get as close to them as possible, and often pass the virus on.

If that were all, of course, it would be an embarrassing and uncomfortable sickness, but not all that scary. Which is why the virus doesn’t stop there. Since it was already attacking the brain, it made sense that as the disease got worse, people’s ability to process reality might break down completely, into delusions and hallucinations. And, in the end, almost all of them die. Like most of the diseases that frighten us the most–Mad Cow, Ebola–my virus has an incredibly high mortality rate.

One of the things that’s stuck with me after all my reading is how easily and quickly new viruses really can emerge–viruses we have no treatments and no vaccines for. I hope The Way We Fall works for readers who are looking to be scared, because I certainly have frightened myself.

New Year’s Ebook Sale!

Welcome to 2016! To start the new year off with a bang, I’m putting both the re-release of Give Up the Ghost and Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories on sale. 🙂

You can get the Kindle ebooks for just $0.99 through the US site (Ghost / Those Who Lived) or the UK site (Ghost / Those Who Lived).

If you prefer paperbacks, never fear: You can order signed copies from me for $1 off the usual price (ordering info here).

Or you can order paperbacks directly from Createspace at a 20% discount (use coupon code KE8BL7QQ for Ghost / QKLGLM5S for Those Who Lived)


Do you need to know someone to get published? Survey says “Nope!”

The results are in from my New Publishing Connections survey, and I’m excited to share them with you! To sum up quickly, this survey was intended to discover to what extent authors need connections within the publishing world to get a first (fiction) book published.

To begin with, I’d like to thank the 257 authors who contributed their answers! Unfortunately, that number wasn’t quite enough to allowed for some of the more detailed analyses across genres and other answers. So I’m going to keep the survey open, and if I get at least 100 more responses, I’ll go back and reanalyze the data to see whether the patterns stay consistent and whether I can identify any new ones.

If you’d like to contribute data on your first (fiction) book sale to a traditional publisher and haven’t already, you can find the survey here. Much appreciated!

Now, on to the current results…

The Books

Of the first (fiction) books reported on in the survey, 49.6% were young adult, 22.3% middle grade, 13.3% adult genre (romance, SFF, mystery, etc.), 11.3% picture books, and 3.1% adult literary or mainstream. (Weighting toward YA and MG would be because of my specific reach when promoting the survey, not anything about the industry.) These books were sold between 1979 and 2015, with most of them having sold in the last five years (60.6%). 22.6% had sold between 2006 and 2010, 11.8% had sold between 2001 and 2005, and only 5.2% were sales before 2000. (There were no sales reported actually in 2000.) Most — 50.4% — were sales to Big Five publishers, while 16% were to other large presses, 19.5% to mid-sized presses, and 14.1% to small presses.

The Connections (or lack thereof)

68% of the books reported on had sold with an agent’s representation; 32% had sold directly to the publisher.

67% of the agented authors had gotten their agent through cold querying — i.e., they’d had no prior contact with the agent and no one acted as a middleman bringing them together. 11.5% had gotten their agent via a referral, 6.9% had met the agent at a conference, 5.2% had gotten a request from the agent due to a contest submission, 4% had gotten to know the agent via social media, and 4.8% had some other connection (e.g., materials requested because seen online).

96% of agented authors had no prior contact whatsoever with the editor their first book sold to. 3.4% had met the editor at a conference or workshop, and 1 author had gotten a referral to the editor.

Therefore, 44.8% of the total respondents sold their first novel via an agent they had no prior contact with to an editor they had no prior contact with.

Looking at the unagented authors, 41.7% had sold their book via a cold query or submission (no prior contact with or connections to the editor). 17.9% had met the editor a conference, workshop, or similar event. 16.7% had gotten a referral. 7.2% had gotten noticed via a contest. 6% had gotten to know the editor via social media. 3 authors were approached by the editor based on self published books. And a handful of “Other” responses were mainly authors who had previous interactions with the editor around past books on submission that hadn’t sold.

Therefore, 13.3% of the total respondents sold the book without an agent, to an editor they had no prior contact with.

Which brings the total of authors who sold their first books without any connections to the people involved in that sale up to 58.1%.

Past Credits (or lack thereof)

One point raised when I conducted my previous survey on this topic was that some authors might have gotten their foot in the door not via direct connections but on the strength of prior publication credits and/or social media presence. So I asked about that too this time around. 53.5% of the authors who responded had no prior credits or platform whatsoever. 10.9% had sold short stories in the same genre as their first (fiction) book. 16.6% had sold short stories and/or articles but none in the same genre. 6.6% had traditionally published nonfiction books. 3.9% had self published stories or books selling fewer than 1000 each; 2.3% had self published stories or books with at least one title selling over 1000 copies. 2.3% were known for their social media presence. A number of others were journalists (freelance or on staff), had worked for hire under pen names, had published poetry, and/or wrote academic texts.

Cross-referencing the authors without connections with authors without past credits/platform, we end up with:

28.7% of the total respondents sold their first novel via an agent they had no prior contact with to an editor they had no prior contact with, without having any prior publication credits or social media platform.

6.5% of the total respondents sold the book without an agent, to an editor they had no prior contact with, without having any prior publication credits or social media platform.

So, overall, 35.2% sold their first books without connections to the people involved in that sale, prior publication credits, or a platform with which to gain notice.


Agented vs. Not

Being agented for the first book sale was most common with young adult (78.7& agented), followed by middle grade (68.4%), and adult genre (58.8%). PB writers least likely at 31%. There wasn’t enough data on adult literary/mainstream to reveal patterns. Across all genres, authors had generally found their agent through cold querying (65-69.2%). Adult genre writers were more likely than others to have gotten a referral (25%); YA and MG saw fairly similar percentages for contests (around 6.8%) referals (10.6%), meeting at conference etc. (7.3%), and getting to know online (3.3%). There wasn’t enough PB data to reveal patterns at that level of detail.

Being agented seems to have become more common for first book sales over the years, with only 23.1% of those who sold their books prior to 2000 having agents, vs. 56.7% of those between 2001 and 2005, 70.7% in 2006-2010, and 72.9% after 2011. No patterns in regards to cold querying emerged other than none of the 13 responses from pre-2000 had cold queried (they’d mostly gotten referrals). Otherwise cold querying has been by far the most common route to getting an agent over the last 15 years (around 70% of those agented). Referrals as a route to agent decreased over the time periods from 17.6% in 2001-2005 to 12.2% in 2006-2010 to 9.7% after 2011 (not enough data prior to 2000). Meeting agents in person became more common, with no one reporting this prior to 2006, 2.4% in 2006-2010, and 9.7% after 2011; contest submissions only became a thing after 2011.

First book sales to Big Five houses were almost always agented (86%), while mid-sized and other large presses showed similar numbers around the middle (56% and 58.5%), and with small press it was least common to have been agented (30.8%). Coming at it from the other direction, agented writers mostly sold to the Big Five (63.8%) and rarely to small presses (6.3%) whereas unagented writers were least likely to sell to Big Five (22%) and most likely to sell to small press (30.5%).

Prior publication credits or other platform was less common for agented writers (77.4% had none) than for non-agented (57.1%). It’s impossible to determine cause and effect, but I’d wonder if writers who have some experience with publishing are more likely to feel comfortable going directly to editors, or if it’s that it’s more difficult to sell a book without those prior credits if you don’t have an agent, or perhaps a bit of both. Having no prior credits didn’t seem to make a difference in how people got agents, with 67.9% of those with none successful via cold querying, similar to 66.2% of those with some.

Prior Credits/Platform

Authors who cold queried agents and sold to editors they’d had no prior contact with also had no prior credits or platform in 64% of cases. Most common credits for those who had some: 11.7% had sold at least some short stories in the same genre as the book, 12.6% had sold short stories and/or articles in other genres.

Authors who sold directly to editors via cold query/submission had no prior credits/platform in 48.6% of cases. 14.3% had sold at least some short stories in the same genre as the book, and 25.7% had sold short stories and/or articles in other genres.

There were not enough authors with prior credits to break down the data by type of credit or in comparison to genre etc. in any meaningful way at this time.


For anyone who feared that it’s impossible to sell a book without some sort of connection or publication history, I think these numbers should provide reassurance. More than a third of the responding authors published their first (fiction) book without any of that!

To anyone who would take this data as reason for doubt — “But the majority of the authors did have something helping them!” — I’d like to point out that just because an author had a connection or prior credits, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have sold the book without that. We’re not looking at causal relationships here, only criteria that both happened to be present and may have had no impact on each other. This seems especially likely to be the case given that the most common “something” was having previously published short stories or articles that weren’t even in the same genre as the book sold, which seems unlikely to have mattered enough to any agent or editor to make the difference between wanting to represent or buy the book vs. not.

Speaking from my own experience: I queried agents with two earlier books before querying with the one that got me representation (and later sold as my debut). I had the exact same prior publishing credits in all of those cases (a handful of adult spec fic short stories). What made the difference was the book. The agent who did take my debut on didn’t care at all about those short stories, because they weren’t for the same audience as the book and they weren’t especially prominent. She didn’t even mention them to the editors she submitted the book to. So, I had “something,” but there’s no reason to believe my publishing journey with that book would have been any different if I hadn’t.

I’ve also gotten referrals to agents who decided not to represent me because my book wasn’t quite the right fit (and said book later sold via a different agent), and given referrals to authors who my agent decided not to take on for the same reason (and some of those books have since sold via different agents). A referral isn’t going to make someone take on your book if the book isn’t what they’re looking for — and being turned down on a referral doesn’t mean a book isn’t what someone else might be looking for.

In other words, the people who got their first book published without any of that are only the baseline number of people who 100% definitely didn’t need anything except the book and the willingness to put it out there. The people who got their first book published after having published short stories or working as a journalist or getting a referral to an agent or meeting an editor at a conference might have needed that extra stuff to get noticed… but I think there’s a good chance that many if not most of them would have gotten noticed regardless, if they hadn’t had those credits to mention, if they’d cold queried the agent or submitted to the editor without the meeting, because it was the right book at the right time.

Those are my thoughts — I’d love to hear yours!

(And remember, if you’d like to contribute data for a broader analysis, you can still do so here. 🙂 )

Give Up the Ghost re-release with new cover!

A couple of years ago, I found out my debut novel, Give Up the Ghost, was going out of print. This was not entirely surprising, because not very many new readers were discovering the book, but it was also saddening, because there were so many new readers who now couldn’t discover the book.

Ghost had a bit of an awkward time of it from the start. While it got great feedback from fellow authors (Justine Larbalestier called it “a beautiful and moving debut”) and industry reviewers, it was also a paranormal YA novel that had no romance coming out on the heels of the Twilight series, and a ghost story that’s more about the emotional concerns of the living than supernatural hauntings. But I’m still very fond of it, and there are many readers who’ve connected with it, which makes me hope it’ll find more. So when I got the opportunity to re-release Ghost myself, I jumped on it.

And as part of that re-release, I have given the book a makeover.* 🙂 Check out the new cover (recently revealed at YABooksCentral, where you can go to enter to win a paperback copy):

Do you like the new look? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The new edition of the book will be available for purchase on December 1st, with a new ebook price of just $3.99. You can pre-order the ebook here, and the new paperback is available here. I will be offering signed copies of the paperback at the same prices as Those Who Lived; if you’re interested, please email me.

*Note: The content of the book is completely unchanged — not because I think it’s perfect, but because I started writing that book more than ten years ago in a very different place in my life, and I think it should stand as the book I wrote then.